Let’s hear a cheer for the innards of books.  They are such a useful way to learn that you don’t know it all.   

When I heard that Netanyahu and  HAMAS leaders  had been issued arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court, I knew it’s name and a [very] little about the ICC, because I had read Scott Turow’s book, Testimony.   I knew that the United States was not a member of the ICC, that it took the ICC a very long time to get results, but that finally, someone was doing something about the atrocities going on in Gaza.  I trust Scott Turow.  His earlier book, Presumed Innocent,  which is about trial evidence, was sent to me by two lawyer friends about 48 hours after I lost my malpractice case against the physician who crippled me.  They thought  I might find it useful, which I did.  Even a bit after the verdict, it was interesting, informative, and comforting, as the innards of good books are.

Similarly, when I wanted to know more about the Middle East, I read   [Washington Post foreign policy writer] David Ignatius’ book, ‘Agents of Innocence’’ and learned a lot about Beirut and its factions that contribute to and complicate its life, as factions do.  [An aside; Two other books that helped me understand a bit about the Middle East were Rory Stewart’s ‘Places in Between’. and William Dalrymple’s ‘From the Holy Mountain’.]  Now I want to know more about the politics of space.  So I was very excited to  read that David Ignatius’ new book, ‘Phantom Orbit’ is about Russia, China, US, and space technology.  I used my 1-click Kindle ordering, which Charlie threatens to dismantle, and voila! Phantom Orbit is ready to read.    

Which I promise to do, as soon as I finish Alisa Luna Valdez’ second novel, Blood Mountain, featuring Jodi Luna, poetry professor turned State game warden in New Mexico,  If this one is as good as Hollow Beasts, Alisa Valdez’ first in the series, then I may have found a worthy successor to Tony Hillerman, with a dollop of C.J. Box  Gotta love those innards.

Hard to be ‘midst innards of WOW! Rhodies, and stay out of the dirt, too.

  Celebrate the oldies, young and/or wise.  They know things.

I am old, old, old, 
but I do not do as told, told, told. 
I am bold, bold, bold, bold,
Going for the gold, gold, gold,
while having a very good time. 

This month I will be 85.  By one government standard, that is ‘old old’.   65 is ‘young old’, 75 is ‘middle old’, and 85 is ‘old old’.  However you say it, 85 is very old, but also a clear indicator that we ‘old oldies’ have beat the odds of dying at 79 [women] and 74 [men], and are, therefore, according to Garrison Keillor, ‘above average’. 

But what do you call ‘older than old old’? I asked Howard, a breakfast buddy, who is 95 and way above average, what the 4th stage of old should be called, and he said, ‘Dead!’  I figured he was annoyed that they stopped serving hot 7-grain cereal on Mondays, which is perfectly understandable, so I ignored him, and suggested   ‘wise old’, for a ‘wise oldie’ he surely is.

I like Howard a lot.  During Gary’s Poetry Club which was about my least favorite topic, Lyrics,  Howard, in his native New Yorker-ese, recited Jim Byrnes’  lyrics to the song, ‘Old Dog, New Tricks’.  It was great!  I heard an oldie’s anthem in the making.  [An aside;  Friends and technology willing, someday you’ll be able to see or hear Jim Byrnes’ lyrics.]

Also exciting, Howard, at 13 years old, went to the original Speyre School where his ‘classes’ were seminars, plus using public libraries, which imo, is the perfect prep for a lifelong autodidact, which, thinking about it, Leonard is and what I tried to help my 40 years of my older students t continue being..  The world would be so much better if we all knew how better to handle misinformation, disinformation, rumor, and now, A.I.  [An aside;  ‘imo’ is text-speak for ‘in my opinion’.  Sometimes I am so-o-o with it.  Charlie is choking at the thought.] 

Gotta love oldies, Leonard, autodidacts libraries, well-sourced information, and Charlie.  Always Charlie.

 Celebrate the library’s pluses, especially its newly patched wall.


POETRY CONTEST PRIZES…As one among 100-plus winners of the4Cultures King County Public Poetry Project, I and my poem, The Missing Link, have been [1] mentioned online as promised, but which has gone virtually unseen because almost none of my fellow oldies know how how to be online; [2] probably displayed in a bus or train car, though I’m not sure, because I don’t ride the bus or know anyone, including Charlie, who does, although I know that one of his friends bikes to work.  However, Amy, my manager, and all-purpose fixer, has a bus-riding friend, who saw something about poetry displayed on whatever bus she took.  Amy is riding buses and doing whatever she does on Linked In, trying to find a sighting; and [3] promised a gift, which I will love. I may be the only award-winning, published [50 viewings ] poet whose best seller was 2 batches of the Memorial Card I sent to my sister’s wake, titled Channeling my sister, Charyl Coghlan Pollard, while reading the poem, “Possibilities” by Wislawa Szymborska.

FINDING LIBRARIANS…  So far, so…promising.  I think I’ve almost nabbed 2 actual and 4 potential career changers, though 1 actual chose massage therapy instead, 1 actual  is giving it thought, and 4 potentials don’t know what they’re missing, because Charlie won’t let me near his friends; 5 potential undergrads, 1 is solid, 1 is veering toward Law School, 3 others have enthused parents; no retirees, yet, though Howard thinks it sounds like fun! Howard would make a great librarian.  I know this because he was the only Poetry Clubber to agree with me that Hala Aylan’s poem, Siri My Mother, could be used as a Lyrics choice because the questions within sound like the music of a Library’s Reference Room.                                                                                             

Gotta love Amy, mostly Amy, potential librarians, and the innards of ongoing adventures.

Celebrate that Frankie the Feetsplinters has well-tended toenails.

That’s it.  Remember our warriors on this, Memorial  Day.  Then let the summer’s fun begin.  I’ll keep you posted.

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If you are among the many — and they are legions — thinking about becoming a librarian,   but you are still unsure, then, from this librarian to you,  have fun with these food-for-thought, self-aware questions and books  to help you realize all that you are missing.  Become an Information Warrior in the battle to save our democracy.  Well, that and be sure to VOTE! 

Shelves and Kindles hold books; librarians choose and suggest.  Life is good.  [Right, Ace?]

Do you love murder mysteries?  Liking them is okay, but loving them is better.  Do you think about search strategies and the nature and quality of information?  Examples; A Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.  Classic.  The Li Du Trilogy by Elsa Hart.  Imperial Librarian in 18thC., southwestern China.  Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box.  Wyoming Game Warden, Joe,  and Town Librarian and wife, Marybeth team up to search.

Do you wonder what ‘helps’ library users use, e.g. collections, connections, reference works, librarians, to find and get what they need?  Do you think autodidacts should be library users? Do you think we should all be autodidacts?  Examples;  Elmore’s Legs’ by Alec Wilkerson is a profile of Gregg Sutter, the researcher for Elmore Leonard, the mystery writer, emphasis on ‘writer.’  The Unruly Pleasures of the Mid-Manhattan Library by Ada Calhoun is an article / valentine to the many nearby libraries and librarians that she uses and loves.  Believing is Seeing by Errol Morris, [esp. Chapter on Crimean War photos] reports his investigations into the hidden truths behind a series of documentary photographs,… [then]  into the nature of truth in photography.  The Road to Ubar by Nicholas Clapp is a great search in and out of libraries to find the lost city of Ubar in Southern Arabia.  Clear Pond, The Reconstruction of  Life by Roger Mitchell is ‘an archeological investigation’ into the life and times of one Israel Johnson, an early 19th-century millwright and settler of the Adirondacks.’  Maybe only a librarian could love this.   

Do you wonder what goes on in a library?  Examples;  The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is based on the true story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II.  What You Are Looking For Is In The Library  by Michiko Ayoama  A ‘humongous, enigmatic Librarian’ gives each of five users a reading list with one ‘outlandish’ book. [Goodreads.]  The title was too good to ignore.  Even though the librarian sounds more like a ‘philosophical counselor’’ [new to me and interesting], they both try to ‘find the right book at the right time’, so I included it.   

Do you wonder what people choose to read and why? Do you surreptitiously check titles being read by others at lunch or on the bus or on shelves of disarray? Examples;  So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson.  So many reasons, too.  ‘By the Book’ is a NYT weekly interview with an authorUseful, fun-to-read, hard-to-find info, e.g. ‘What books are on your nightstand?’ and ‘What are you going to read next?’ Carlos Lozada’s NYT column, ‘I Read These Books So That You Don’t Have To’ is a great primer on ways of reading and a bibliography of what and why he reads what he does. If only information junkies think good newspapers  are must reads, then consider librarians fellow devourers, who re ready for the day’s questions. The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams is in my ‘to read’ pile and looks promising.

Schaumburg Township District Library — early days, good times, aging well.  [Painting by Norma Simone.  Photo by Charlie.]

 Do you wonder where information comes from and/or where it may be going? Information spreads or may be dormant, but it is never dead.  Think spreading threads of thought that develop from creative searches of mass media, conventional publishing, scientific research, government documents, self publishing, social media, Internet storage, mergers, multiple formats, library connections, A.I., etc., and librarian search tools to help sort through it all.   Examples;  The Thread: A Mathematical Yarn by Philip J. Davis does not mention librarians, but should, as he notes that `not the truth, but the search for the truth; the process, the method, that is what matters’’…  The Book Nobody Read: Chasing ‘The Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus” by Owen Gingrich records finding some 600 Renaissance-era copies of “De Revolutionibus” all over the world, especially in eastern European libraries, noting how thoroughly the work was read in its time, and how word of its theories spread and evolved.  Rolling Stone’s article, ‘Pizzagate, Anatomy of a Scandal’, is an early example of social media threads.   

 Do you read the bibliography, [community of contributors] and maybe the notes [often spicy asides], with a peek at the index [sometimes wickedly written entries], before you read the book?  Citing sources matters, especially with plagiarism increasingly in the news, misinformation everywhere and A.I. muddying even more these already murky waters.  The Center for an Informed Public, University of Washington, CIP, researches the way false, unverified and misleading information plays out in a variety of arenas. Its analyses of elections and the pandemic, in particular, have unleashed conservative furor. It is just plain exciting and a godsend for librarians in the midst of change and a time of trouble.

Examples of citing sources;  A Pilgrimage to Eternity; from Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by Timothy Egan.    a classic bibliography from ‘a meticulous researcher and a skilled storyteller [WaPo].  It reminds me of the liberal arts days that I loved. His newest book, A Fever In the Heartland by Timothy Egan is good, maybe even important to read, and has a many-paged, equally fine, if different section on sources.    Letters to an American by Heather Cox Richardson is a daily current events rundown [on Substack] with meticulously cited tech-savvy sources in the text and in endnotes,  which is a  major trust-builder.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple follows a teenager’s search for information to help find her mother.  The sources she finds and chooses to use propel the plot.  I don’t think you have to be a librarian to notice this, but it might help, and I loved the book.  Some Glad Morning, Poems By Babara Crooker includes a page of ‘NOTES’, which I read as a page of ‘INFLUENCES’, a kind of recognition that we all stand on the shoulders of others.  Two examples of her entries;  “I Can’t Write a Poem About McDonald’s” is after a poem by Ron Wallace, and  “Useful” is after a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. 

Enough! you cry, if you’re still with me.  Rest assured, there’s more to come.  Groan.

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I won the King County Public Poetry contest.  

I am ridiculously pleased.  Here is my poem of 50 words or fewer, as required.


Shilshole, oh Shilshole, you’re my bike trail of choice.
I’m a rolling oldie, who lives nearby, hoping you’ll hear my voice.
I want to roll bumpless by the canal, with boats and the seagulls’ squawks, 
And not divert to Leary, on my stroll to the Chittenham Locks. 

I won an online mention

which limits my fame to those few of my Landmark colleagues with a smartphone and/or laptop, and those even fewer who know how to use them.  

Better yet, I won having my poem on a bus or light rail car, 

which is especially fine because my City Councilperson is dissing the Shilshole Avenue route to fill in  the ‘missing link’ [the last 1.4 miles of the 27 mile Burke Gilman [bike on rail] Trail] which we, who love the outdoors and want to live healthy and longer, prefer.  He is pushing, instead, dangerous, busy, unappealing  Leary Avenue, an appalling  diversion, which runs right in front of my Landmark.  A bus with my poem favoring the Shilshole Avenue route that passes by my City Councilperson’s Ballard office  could be the sandwich-board from Hell.      

Charlie hinted I might be eligible for Diva-dom.  I happily agreed to a month of being spoiled.  He  said, ‘Ten minutes’, and asked if I wanted a cup of coffee.  I said,’Yes’, and relished my short-lived  Diva-ness.  And Charlie.  But I always relish Charlie. 

Duck with hat and Poet look at Ships’ Canal and think  of Shilshole trail.

Then what should appear in my morning’s read, but a perfect poem for all, or at least many, purposes.   It is amendable.  [See italics.]   It infers that librarians and libraries matter, that well-thought people are more likely to do good, to be hopeful, to see possibilities with prospects, and to VOTE. Did I mention well-informed people are more likely to VOTE? 


“O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,” by Philip Appleman, 
from Selected Poems (University of Arkansas) with italicized amendments by Colleen Coghlan

O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,
gimme a break before I die:
grant me wisdom, will, & wit,
purity, probity, pluck, & grit.
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind,
gimme great abs & a steel-trap mind,
and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice—
these little blessings would suffice
to beget an earthly paradise:
make the bad people good—
and the good people nice;
and before our world goes over the brink,
teach the believers how to think.

Go to the library and search the shelves
Where helpful librarians look like elves. 
Develop ideas, then enter the fray,
VOTE for DEMOCRACY and save the day!

With my contest winner poem [she said un-humbly] of 50 words or fewer, and only 27 words in the amended poem, not counting the ‘TITLE’ words.  I may have found my metier.  All I need now is a keyboard with diacritical markings that my short-fingered, non-dominant hand can manage.  

Coming next, some questions for those of you – and I know you are legion – who are thinking of becoming a librarian and still uncertain.  Stay tuned.

Posted in General Discussion | 13 Comments

MORE SENSE OF PLACE, mostly in books

I know I promised to suggest more book titles with a sense of coastal Maine, and I will, but who could pass up a teaser headline like this one:                      

 Hip-Hop Was a Revolution in Music, Made by Librarians.  
And the full title was only slightly less exciting:
Hip-Hop Is the Music of Vinyl Librarians.

This is a great article. It asks  you to think again about who is a librarian? and what does a librarian do?, which are always good things to think about. And, equally exciting, author  Dan Charnas constructs the ladder of giants’ shoulders that hip hop artists have based their later work on, much as Robert Merton did in his book, On the Shoulders of Giants,  wherein he parsed Isaac Newton’s famous statement:

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.

No doubt about it, LIBRARIANS RULE!    [Yes, Larry, they do.]

Other news too good to ignore: We have a wonderful new neighbor, Frankie Feetsplinter troll, by Thomas Dambo,  Danish environmental artist, who only uses already-used wood.  Charlie and I went to the Nordic Museum for a meet and greet.  

Frankie and I have no neck, gap-toothed grins, and big tums. Fraternal twins?

Now, as promised, are some favorite books that capture the sense of of place that I found as a summer person on the Coast of Maine.

Frankie’s Place; A Love Story,  by Jim Sterba.  Maybe my favorite sense of place [SOP] read, this book is so much more than charming, though it is that. Its review in the Grove Atlantic says it best. 

The Way Life Should Life Should Be, by Christina Smith Kline.  The novel is about young incomers to Maine, looking for something special, working hard, deciding if Maine Is the place they want to be and, if it is, then figuring out how to become part of the continuing reinvigoration of Coastal Maine.

The author knows Maine, and that matters.  She spent summers  on the Coast as a child, loved it from afar, then when her professor-father retired, she found a clunker of a house on the Maine coast  and, as she continues the story,  ‘It was a complete wreck but on this gorgeous piece of land, so [my parents] bought it. My dad had been a carpenter in his youth, and he fixed it up over the years….  ell, then my other three sisters all bought houses in Southwest Harbor. One of them lives there full time; she’s the town librarian. She married a carpenter, and has four kids aged zero to seven. She does the whole Maine fantasy! And now I am the last one to the party, having recently bought a place there too.  We’re all no more than five minutes away from each other.’

Spoonhandle by Ruth Moore.  A classic tale of Maine coast, which, the author argued, is a story  that could be set anywhere, like Fauklner’s stories, some critics said.  But, luckily, it was set on the coast of Maine, and so, incorporated an islander’s ways.  And Spoonhandle was made into a film titled ‘Deep Water’, which was fun to watch. I’ve just ordered her Cold as a Dog and Other Stories: Poems and Ballads from the Coast of Maine for Poetry Club possibilities.  I usually find a poem I like, then figure out how to make it fit whatever assignment Gary sets.  Even better, Foksinger Gordon Bok. a Maine treasure,  recorded an album based on Ruth Moore’s ballads.  One of his deep bass notes into his sea shanties, and I’m sitting on my porch, overlooking the harbor again.  [Aside   My  neighbors and I are part of the ‘Waltzing with Bears’ chorus that Gordon Bok, et.al. recorded during a Minneapolis concert,  which is very exciting, but his ‘Turning Toward the Morning’ is more Maine.  Both are on You Tube.]  

 One Man’s Meat by E.B. White.  A classic  example of someone who lived two places, which is true of several other authors on my list, which suggests that by living two places, they may bring a KEENER awareness of their sense of Maine.

Time for a break, and Frankie the troll calls.

 Charlie wants in. Half-brother?  I recall fondly the tryst with the tree.

The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey Through a A Century of Biology by  Bernd Heinrich.  I love this book.  While a kid, Bernd Heinrich fled Germany as the Russians were invading and after about 5  years of living in the forests, he,  with his family, settled on a farm in the Maine woods   From there, he became a runner, a naturalist, a retired UVT professor, and a writer, who lives in the Maine woods. His book, A Naturalist At Large; The Best Essays of Bernd Heinrich, which the NYT Review er describes as “Passionate observations [that] superbly mix memoir and science,” is near the top of my ‘to read next’ pile.  Rachel Carson’s Sea Trilogy is important, but more for its addressing coastal conservation than  for her sense of Maine. 

Paintings of Maine, edited by Arnold Skolnick.  Painters abound on the coast of Maine, and though the memories or understandings the pictures evoke and the stories they provoke vary with each appreciator, together they are the Maine I know, even though I had a John Marin print on my office wall 4 years before I had ever stepped foot in Maine, I like him still and love Maine more these 50 years later. During my Roseledge Books’ days, a good daughter extolled the virtues of this book’s ability to make her mother, who has dementia, smile and talk with her about the good times and sense of Maine she was recalling.  A trip to the Farnsworth Art Museum is always good, too, but sometimes not as flexible. 

Old Books and Rare Friends  by Madeline Stern and Leona Rostenberg.  I’m sure that towards the end of this book about two grand old women, their place in Maine is mentioned.  But even if I’m wrong, which is rare, these two women are SO worth a read and would clearly fit in the Maine I love. 

What I have learned so far is you not only have to have been or to be there, though that’s  a necessary beginning [Thanks, Jim.], but you have to understand and appreciate that there’s a story with variations behind everything that happens, then figure out how to fit into and/or add to those stories.  It helps if you’re subtle or Irish

King County Public Poetry Contest, entry option #2

Coghlan Castle: family lore, national landmark, but sense of NoDak?

My family built a fieldstone castle, on North Dakota’s plains.
My dad read books and herded sheep from the turret ‘midst the grains.
‘There were no sheep,’ the farmer said, ‘and the windows were too high,’
So my dad was a reader, who embellished a bit.  He’s an Irish guy.  

And, in case you missed it, here is my King County Public Poetry Contest entry option #1, which just might be my version of Gloria Gaynor’s, ‘I Will Survive’.

Bald spot is a nuisance in search of  flowers, until it’ a tonsure.

The top of my head is round and bald, like tonsured monks of old.
Theirs were perfect, mine is not, with wiggles and bumps, I’m told.
I’ll learn from the monks, who with the nuns, will one day coed-mix,
And I’ll be ever ready, as their new day ABBETRIX. 


That’s all there is, folks — for now and probably for a couple of weeks. I love your comments and am finally figuring out the difference between a reply and a comment. Forgive the grammar.  I can’t reach across my keyboard, and the shift key is only on one side, which means colons, parentheses, question marks and quotation marks are trouble. Okay, we users of colons and parentheses may be rare, but users of question marks and quotation marks are still plenty, and if they are not, ever more information-related misunderstandings will prevail, just another reason to know and be happy  that LIBRARIANS RULE!   

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Last blog post, I got all quibbley about Paul Theroux’s NYT list of books for a traveler to read before visiting Boston, even though I have mostly been a pass-through Boston traveler on my way to Maine.  So to answer last post’s wondering, yes, maybe books can furnish a place, but capturing the sense of that place requires something more. But what is that more?               

For ideas of books to list that have a sense of Maine’s magic, I looked at the NYT list of books for a first time visitor to Maine, developed by Lily King, who is new to me, and sent by Roseledge Books veteran, Margaretta, who is not.  [Thanks, M.]

  • “Night of the Living Rez,” Morgan Talty
  • “When We Were the Kennedys,” Monica Wood
  • “Olive Kitteridge,” Elizabeth Strout
  • “One Man’s Meat” and “Charlotte’s Web,” E.B. White
  • “Call Me American,” Abdi Nor Iftin
  • “Landslide,” Susan Conley
  • “Empire Falls,” Richard Russo
  • “More Than You Know,” Beth Gutcheon
  • “Salem’s Lot,” “Bag of Bones” and “On Writing,” Stephen King
  • “The Beans of Egypt, Maine,” Carolyn Chute
  • “The Maine Woods,” Henry David Thoreau
  • “Temple Stream” and “Writing Life Stories,” Bill Roorbach
  • “The Sea Trilogy,” Rachel Carson
  • “Finding Freedom” and “The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine: A Cookbook,” Erin French
  • “Evening,” Susan Minot
  • “One Morning in Maine” and “Blueberries for Sal,” Robert McCloskey
  • “Miss Rumphius,” Barbara Cooney
  • “Welcome Home or Someplace Like It,” Charlotte Agell
  • “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel,” Alexander Chee
  • “Curious Attractions” and “And Then Something Happened,” Debra Spark.

Like Margaretta, I’ve read or heard of some, but not others.  I learned that my heart is with coastal Maine, that I am getting old and opinionated, and that this list lacks the sense of place that comes from the ‘then’ that gives meaning to the ‘now.’ So, I decided to try making a list.

The red myrtle tree is a lovely late bloomer.  Well, aren’t we all?  Sigh.

I and Roseledge Books spent 35 years on the coast of Maine, so I know something about books and Maine and readers in Maine, but not which book will give them what they need to know to be part of Maine’s magic. It’s a tricky match.   I used to suggest that visitors to Maine should read Robert Mcloskey,s ‘One Morning in Maine’, and, if you thought nothing happened, Maine may not be for you.  Maine’s magic is elusive.

So, what is the ‘more’ that a sense of that place requires.                  .  

 Sometimes a picture says it better than a whole book. And if copying the picture is out of bounds, maybe the headline will do. For example, this NYT article about a Maine gathering is perfect.

One Morning in Maine,

225 People Went to the Library

Robert McCloskey’s daughter, Sarah, now a grown-up Sal, read her father’s book,, ‘Blueberries for Sal’. New and old friends crowded into the Library of a Coastal village to see the author’s very accurate drawings for his books and  be part of the event.  It was pure ME, but maybe you had to be there, or look at the NYT article and remember. 

I wasn’t there for the McCloskey gathering, but I was in the crowded meeting room of the East Wind Inn on a hot July afternoon when an author came to talk about the papers of Dorothea Lange and Sarah Orne Jewett, but after about ten minutes of heroic effort trying to discuss DL, she ended up mediating a huge and wonderful disagreement about where SOJ had landed and lived when she came to Tenants Harbor, and if she described those piers and paths in her classic book, ‘Country of the Pointed Firs.’ Everyone there had a dog-eared edition of COPF open and ready for citing Some had historical or town maps. And Roseledge Books had its best sales ever –to that day Pure ME, pure then and now, pure fun. I wish I had a picture. Fortunately, my mind’s eye gets better [well, more interesting] with Irish age.

I have a special place in my heart for Sarah Orne Jewett’s Country of the Pointed Firs, not because it’s a riveting tale, classics rarely are, but because the book led me to Tenants Harbor and Roseledge summers, and, thereby, illustrates, again, how the past always matters. then leads to now, and sometimes wrong  ends up right. 

[My SOJ story… I knew from a stone on Monhegan that Orne was a variant of the family name Horn behind HORN HILL. So when my weakening right side said no more to the rocky trails I loved, I flailed about for an alternative, until a MN Health Department colleague from Maine left his latest issue of DownEast Magazine on my desk. I paged through the mostly pictures and ads and spotted a 4 line ad ‘EAST WIND INN, Country of the Pointed Firs, Tenants Harbor, Maine, Phone: (207) 372-6366.’ Totally misconstruing the situation, I figured there might be a tie between HORN of Monhegan and ORNE in a Tenants Harbor ad.  So if I loved Monhegan, as I did and do,  then….  I immediately wrote for reservations and was on my way to summers in Roseledge.]

And, saving the best for last….

 Heather Cox Richardson is a 4th generation Mainer, and historian who, in her daily ‘Letters from an American’, sums up how the ‘then’ informs the ‘now’ of current events.  I read her missives faithfully, but especially like the Sunday pictures with her captions and what they say about a sense of place.  Here is a great example.  

‘When I was a child, I loved a painting my mother had of a scene also captured in a framed photograph she owned, faded by then into grays. The painting was not great art, but it was made up of the blues and browns and greens I have always loved, and the water and mountains spoke to me. Mother always told me the picture was painted by a friend of her father’s— he died when I was a baby— and it was an image of one of their favorite fishing spots, although she had no idea where it was. Mother gave that painting to me, and I have always had it up in one place or another, so Buddy knows it, too. 

A few weekends ago when we stood at this spot at the end of Jordan Pond, we said almost at the same time: “It’s that painting.”  

[Photo by Buddy Poland]

Very cool to stand in the same spot my grandfather’s friend painted in what can’t have been later than the 1930s, and see the same thing he saw. The past is really not that far away. But what really struck me seeing this view was the inverse of that observation. For my grandfather’s nameless and long-gone fishing buddy, who certainly never knew that the painting he made for his friend would continue to speak to someone a hundred years later, the future wasn’t that far away either.’          

To be continued, mostly because I had fun and want to keep on thinking about a sense of place, [and my liking best those murder mysteries that have it], how ‘then’ in ‘now’ does or can fit outside of Maine, and which books work as examples.

Oh, and I’m working on poems of 50 words or fewer, only one of which can be entered in King County’s public poetry contest.  Here is one of my potential entries, pertinent because of my picture with myrtle above.  

The top of my head is round and bald, like tonsured monks of old. 
Theirs were perfect, mine is not, with  wiggles and bumps, I’m told. 
I’ll learn from the monks, who with the nuns, will one day coed-mix, 
And I’ll be ever ready, as their new day ABBETRIX.

Millie’s review, ‘What?’

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Question of the day: Books may furnish a room, but can they capture a sense of a place?

I am 4 years new to Seattle and still don’t know what makes it what it is, except for Charlie and the weather, which make it my current favorite place to be. When I was here on sabbatical, 30 years ago, Charlie sent me “get ready books”: Timothy Egan’s “The Good Rain” and a book of Seattle sketches, both of which were perfect and surely a tribute to Charlie’s upbringing. Once here, I found Edith Iglauer’s “Fishing With John” and Eduardo Galeano’s “Memory of Fire Trilogy”, both of which I loved and found in Seattle’s great Elliott Bay bookstore. I have since added David Guterson’s “Snow Falling on Cedars” and Earl Emerson’s mysteries, which are set in or near Seattle and, in Earl Emerson’s books, usually include public library action. Recently, my early breakfast colleague, who has lived here for 60 years, and I both read Maria Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”, which was mostly set in Seattle. She hated it, and I loved it, although the Seattle tie didn’t matter to me, and maybe not to her either, which illustrates how much I still don’t have a sense of the essential Seattle.  Suggestions welcome.            

CIVIC DUTY ACTION SHOT of broken brick for my Survey of Ballard’s Bumpy Walkways.

So how to prepare strangers to visit a strange land, as I was and am in Seattle? The NYT asks a knowing author to recommend a list of books to “read your way through [named city]” as a kind of prep walk. For example, Paul Theroux “read his way through Boston”. He said of the list he developed that “[W]hat] interests me [i]s not a particular book but a literary intelligence, a Yankee sensibility enshrined in many local books.”  Okay.  I looked for Boston’s links to my summers in Maine, so I found his list wanting, but a good place to start.. 

                     Here is Paul Theroux’s list.

“The Last Hurrah,” Edwin O’Connor
“Two Years Before the Mast,” Richard Henry Dana Jr.
“Snow-Bound,” John Greenleaf Whittier
“Thanksgiving Day,” Lydia Maria Child
“Lydia Maria Child: A Radical American Life,” Lydia Moland
“Paul Revere’s Ride,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Johnny Tremain,” Esther Forbes
“The Cardinal,” Henry Morton Robinson
“By Any Means Necessary,” Malcolm X
“The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” George V. Higgins
“Sacred” and “Mystic River,” Dennis Lehane
“Walden” and “Cape Cod,” Henry David Thoreau
“Concord Hymn,” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville
“Mayflower,” Nathaniel Philbrick
“Memory of Cape Cod,” Edna St. Vincent Millay
“Tough Guys Don’t Dance,” Norman Mailer
“Vanity of Duluoz,” Jack Kerouac

The list is a bit too English Lit syllabus for me, but I had read some, knew about others, and showed the list to some of my reader friends who have either lived in Boston or have had some connection to it. No one had read all – or even most – of the books, and everyone had some suggestions to add that would make the list more personally pertinent. And isn’t that the problem! Everybody reads a book differently and everyone experiences an experience differently. Here are their additions.

William Martin’s book “Back Bay”, and I would add his book, “Cape Cod” , because I often stopped over on my way to Maine to visit a college roommate who lived near Hyannis.
Robert B Parker’s Spenser mystery novels, and one added his Jesse Stone TV shows.
Elyssa East’s “Dogtown”, because its setting, Gloucester, is very close to Boston, and because I love Marsden Hartley, which is why I chose to read the book, and whose paintings are clearly in and/or of Maine. Then, surprisingly, the book became a true-crime murder mystery with Peter Hodgkins being convicted of murder. Well! Surely, in the grand tradition of New England which connects everybody to everybody else – if you just go back a ways, Scott Hodgkins, a Mainer and long-suffering friend, will want to know he has another cousin and a murderer in the family, if, as I am assuming, they share the same Hodgkins forebears who settled somewhere Glouster-ish in the 1600’s.
Henry Beston’s “The Outermost House” is on Cape Cod, though Henry Beston lived and farmed n Maine.
Abigail Adams’ Letters, and David McCullough’s biography of John Adams brought history emphasis forward, as wass appropriate if you spent most of K-12 school years in upstate NY.
Nicholas Kilmer’s Fred Taylor mysteries
Cleveland Amory’s “The Proper Bostonians”. Thanks to the Wahpeton Public Library collection from which, my mother’s note made clear that I, at 7 years old, could check out anything I wanted, which I did. I still choose eclectically and, thus, feel well-equipped to take on the world. Thanks, mom.
Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings”.                                                               For more suggestions, click on the NYT article noted above and check the “Comments”.  


And then, recently, two acquaintances, one from Ireland and the other a West Texan, who had never been east of the Mississippi asked, “I’m going to Maine. I’ve never been there. What books should I read?” “ARGH! Maine is the place of my heart. Where do I start?”

CIVIC DUTY ACTION SHOT of thumbing-down mooring wretched excess.

I’m working on it, but slowly. I’m currently binge reading murder mysteries based on places and people I want to know about, as narrated by someone who probably knows. I just finished Paul Doiron’s Dead Man’s Wake, Mike Bowditch’s latest adventure, set, as always, somewhere in Maine. The series will be on my “Maine List”. I’m about to start Steve Hamilton’s “A Cold Day in Paradise”, set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [Thanks, Carole], Alisa Valdes’ “Hollow Beasts”, set in New Mexico, and the first in a new series that sounds promising, Marcie Rendon’s “Murder on the Red River”, set n my home country, as Wahpeton is at the “Head of the Red” [Thanks, Sara], and, yes, I have been remiss, but will catch up soon, with William Kent Kreger’s “Fox Creek”.  I can’t not mention my favorite, C.J. Box, and his detective, Game Warden Joe Pickett, whose next Wyoming adventure, “Three Inch Teeth”, is due in February, 2024.  I have preordered it for my Kindle, and Charlie has, AGAIN, threatened to dismantle my 1-Click ordering capability, which is very easy to do, and which I am very good at.

Just a little fun: At Poetry Club, Gary’s assigned task was to choose 3 poems from a favorite poet. I added reasons that each poem mattered, too. I chose Wislawa Szymborska, and her poem “Vietnam” which influenced the poem I am working on, currently titled “Ode to Charlie’s List of Least Favorite Words” and included below,

Ode to Charlie’s List of Least Favorite Words

“I have an idea,” I say, and Charlie says, “Oh, no.”
“I could help you with that.” “I don’t think so.”
“I have a thought.” “Always a worry.” .
“Guess what?” “No.”

“Charlie?” “What now?”
“I’m stuck in the elevator, or
The wheelchair’s joystick is stuck under the table, or
A little coffee spilled on the keyboard, or
The computer is broken, and the screen is totally blank.
I need help.” “How do you do it?”

“I could tow your golf bag AND be the drinks cart.” “Too few blacktop paths.”
“I could set up in the bed of a utility truck.” “No.”
“I might need an umbrella.” “You are a difficult person.”

“Do you want a latte?” “Do you?”
“Yes.” “Okay..” [ He wants a latte, too.]
“Isn’t it lucky I want a latte at just the right time?” [Sipping] “Mm-m-m.”


That’s it, but for a goodbye haiku.  More coming. Much to report, with bad fingers and sticky keyboard vowels. Blame it on the Poetry Club.

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    This post is later than late because WordPress changed itself, so I sent it out on email to my 4 faithful readers, but Charlie fixed this latest catastrophe, as he always can and does, and I am, finally, sufficiently remorseful and peppier, too, and some noteworthy thoughts don’t die.  So this is a rewrite.  And I am looking into Substack.

Poetry Club met today, always a good time.  Intrepid Convener Gary’s assigned task was to “choose and bring to read your 3 favorite poems.”  Today, for me, that would be poems appreciating libraries, as written by the poets, or as understood, and, sometimes,” amended” by me. I figured that, with just a few poetic fiddlings, I could recognize the librarians in my life, especially those of my  early  freedom-to-read good times in  Wahpeton’s Leach Public Library.  And I could subtly expose Gov. DeSantis as a ding dong. But is fiddling  legal?  My fellow early breakfast eater and lawyer, Gil, said, “Go for it.” So I have.  [I like Gil.] These 3 poems are my current favs.  My “amendments” are in boldface.


As my dad used to say of my writing assignments, “This is good.  Let’s make it even better.”   I tried to do that here by amending the poem to end on a more promising note.

To David, About His Education by Howard Nemerov
[ from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. © University of Chicago Press, 1972.]

The world is full of mostly invisible things,
And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,
Or its nose, in a book, to find them out,
Things like the square root of Everest
Or how many times Byron goes into Texas,
Or whether the law of the excluded middle
Applies west of the Rockies. For these
And the like reasons, you have to go to school
And study books and listen to what you are told,
And sometimes try to remember. Though I don’t know
What you will do with the mean annual rainfall
On Plato’s Republic, or the calorie content
Of the Diet of Worms, such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their tum.
Always knowing that you or yours can go to the library to sort things out.

I voted. Library’s Ballot Box is City’s busiest, of course.

I love this next poem, because thinking IS most of my doing these days [plus the “actions” chronicled  in my photos e.g. see below], so I know how much “doing the library” informs this poem.  I just made it more explicit.  And I love thinking about all the ways “being elastic” matters. 

THINK AND DO by Ron Padgett 
[ from Collected Poems. © Coffee House Press, 2013]

I always have to be doing something, accomplishing some-
thing, fixing something, going somewhere, feeling purposeful,
useful, competent—even coughing, as I just did, gives me the
satisfaction of having “just cleared something up.” The phone
bill arrives and minutes later I’ve written the check. The world
starts to go to war and I shout, “Hey, wait a second, let’s think
about this!” and they lay down their arms, go to the library, and ruminate.
they are frozen in postures of thought, like Rodin’s statue, the
one outside Philosophy Hall at Columbia. His accomplish-
ments are muscular. How could a guy with such big muscles be
thinking so much? It gives you the idea that he’s worked all his
life to get those muscles, and now he has no use for them. It
makes him pensive, sober, even depressed sometimes, and
because his range of motion is nil, he cannot leap down from
the pedestal, find questions in the stacks, and attend classes in Philosophy Hall.
I am so
lucky to be elastic! I am so happy to have found the OED,
be able to think of the
word elastic, and have it snap me back to underwear,                        which reminds me: I have to do the laundry soon, and the library sooner.

This last poem is perfect as is. Love of libraries fuels more than ⅓ of the lines.  And they are great lines.

FIELD GUIDE by Tony Hoagland
[From Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty. © Graywolf Press, 2010.]

Once, in the cool blue middle of a lake,
up to my neck in that most precious element of all,
I found a pale-gray, curled-upwards pigeon feather
floating on the tension of the water
at the very instant when a dragonfly,
like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin,
hovered over it, then lit, and rested.
That’s all.
I mention this in the same way
that I fold the corner of a page
in certain library books,
so that the next reader will know
where to look for the good parts.


My challenge to the Poetry Clubbers was, after hearing the poems read aloud, to decide which poem had no amendments. Surely, my clever wordsmithing would be so smooth, someone would guess poem 1 or 2.  But, no. Steve, the only guesser, chose, correctly, poem 3, “Field Guide” by Tony Hoagland, and made it worse by noting it had no library stuff “muckng it up”  Well, ouch!  [I may be mis-remembering his exact words, but not his clear intent, especially as the original poem had 5 of 13 lines about the library.]  Sigh. 

I point and puzzle. Library has a saran-wrapped hole in it. Why?

I had a great good time thinking about amendable poems.  I have found that many, maybe most, of the poems I like are potential library-lover-poems, especially if they are read by a knowing person with sufficient, perfect “other” words and opinions, which, ahem, I am.  Oh, the exciting possibilities for future blog posts!  


The other news and part of the reason for this delayed post is that I was less peppy [“Not always a bad thing,” says Charlie.], but now I  am peppier, thanks to antibiotics I took for an infection  This is good, because it means my peppiness, apparently, is not related to the pill I have started taking in order to quell the papillary carcinoma [cancerous lump] in my left booby.  A papillary carcinoma is uncommon or rare [.5 of 1% of breast cancers], so it should not quell my pursuits, just as my Arnold-Chiari, Type IIB diagnosis of 40 years ago did not quell them then.  According to the biopsy report, my cauliflower-like tumor should respond mightily to the hormone therapy [Aromasin] my oncologists have prescribed, along with a year of their watching and imaging.  Here’s to slow or no growth or spread!  

I have some experience with dire news, and I say of this latest dose, “bring it on”, as I devour Dr. Google, do what Millie says, drive Charlie nuts and adapt, adapt, adapt..  I like to think of all of this as the “hopefulness coupled with curiosity” espoused by neuroscientist, David J. Linden in his just-in- time essay in the NYT, 3/18/23.  Gloria Gaynor and a little “I Will Survive” is always good, too.

Time to quit fussing and post this news.  I’m working on book bits and will post that fussed over melange soon.  And I wrote two killer responses to my least favorite Poetry Club charge.    Are they killer responses if only I think it?  Is the thought as bad as the deed?  Oh, the fun of a being a philosophy major.  

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GOOD NEW YEAR NEWS and ditch grasses

[I like to think these news items are a bit like Louis Jenkins’ “small stories”, without his poetic chops.]

Good News, finally! Charlie and I both had COVID and  were quarantined together for ten days in my studio apartment of about 400 square feet, which is bad news, but we had been boosted, recovered quickly, which is good news, and committed neither mom-icide or son-icide, which is very good news. WHEW!


 Good news!  Maira Kalman’s new book, Women Holding Things, is my current favorite and a wonder.   It is mostly pictures she painted of, yes, women holding things, which cumulate to an affirmation of women and to her wise, hopeful advice: ”It is hard work to hold everything and it never ends. You may be exhausted from holding things and disheartened….  But then there is the next moment and the next day… hold on.” I love Maira Kalman, and her memoir, Principles of Uncertainty may be the best place to start, if you want more. 

I wish I could give  Women Holding Things to every strong woman that I know, and, though I would start with my two marvelous nieces [Big shout out to Sarah and Susan], I can’t think of any women I know well who are not strong.  

Action shot:  Thinking about biking roads with ditch grasses, fields, and meadowlarks.

But if “holding something” were key, I remember maybe most Sister Margery Smith, Irish person and St. Kate’s archivist extraordinaire, telling me, on my way out of her office to teach a  five hour, Friday night class, that she thought, for all my name and tongue, that I might not be Irish.  Well, that stopped me in my tracks.  “Why not?” I asked.  Pause.  “You apparently don’t know how to hold a grudge,” she said, somberly, “but I would be happy to teach you.”  I love and miss Sister Margery.  She clearly belongs in the book. 


Good news!  Old dogs CAN learn new tricks!  I read a NYT report of a group of specialists,  aging as I write, asking if  oldies can still learn.  My fun was being introduced to “cognitive neuroplasticity”, which I think means that  the oldie’s  lifetime of memories, experience, and learning are lurking in the brain, ready to contribute to to the oldie’s thinking, and, when traveling changeable brain-paths, may result in different, unexpected [but probably exciting] conclusions. Though I can’t find the words, I am sure I read this and know it anyhow, because, like other former faculty of Metro State or St. Kate’s Weekend College, I know that “olders” or “pre-oldies”  make the most interesting, and the best ever, students, for just these reasons.

(These are the words I did find.  “[E]xperts in geriatrics say that people in their 80s who are active, engaged and have a sense of purpose can remain productive and healthy — and that wisdom and experience are important factors to consider….  [In people who are active], experts say, the brain continues to evolve and some brain functions can even improve — a phenomenon experts call the ‘neuroplasticity of aging.’…  ‘Age,’ he said, ‘is not something to consider on its own.’”                     NYT, 11/19/2022) 

Action Shot: See ditch grasses in the rod-iron fence, sculpted by a prairie soul.   

I love the affirmation, FINALLY, that seeing things “differently” is an oldie plus. Take that, favorite brother-in-law Ralph.  He and I were watching the boats in Tenants Harbor and, for some [?] reason, I mentioned that it was a good thing that the Irish were in Iceland before the Vikings, so that Brendan and his buds could teach the marauding Vikings how to sail the longer distances required to get them out of Ireland.  My b-i-l stared at me and asked, somewhat snarkily, as I recall, “Did you read that in a book or did you just make it up?”  “Some of both.” I said, winningly.  I mean, isn’t putting found facts “in context” what understanding life, then and now, is all about? 

(Just to get you started thinking differently about our “explorer genes”, I suggest Tim Severin’s The Brendan Voyage, and more “subtly” Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s mystery, “Last Rituals”.)

But before you give facts a context, you have to find them, which brings to mind ever useful librarians, who, as society’s fact finders, working together with fact users, are contemporary “shape-shifters”, who apply one or another theory or narrative or frame to the facts found.  I love the thought of the librarian’s power to find facts and frames to amend the argument, especially in this day of “cancel culture” on the left, “ban books” on the right, and too much mis-information generally.  Let’s hear it – in shushed tones – for librarians   Yay, librarians!

[For more about  warrior librarians, read Stephen Marche’s article in The Guardian about the warrior librarians of Ukraine and Joshua Hammar’s book, The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu.]

Action shot: Ignore the shadows and glare to almost see the penciled ditch grasses.    [Diana Crane’s watercolor-ed ditch grasses had pink and cost too much.] 

————————————————                                                                                   Good News!  Santa got my email! 

Christmas in Seattle, 2022                                                                                                                  To Santa,                                                                                                                                                  Re:   Very Good Mother’s Christmas List, 1st  edition

All I want for Christmas is for you or an elf to do the following:                                           1.  Sort, toss and/or file the piles of mail.                                                                                         2.  Sort, store, or arrange table tops [especially, but not only, at head of sofa].                         3.  Arrange, artfully, scarves on the scarf rack.                                                                           4.  Arrange or tidy, then dust or vacuum desk and duck-on-table tops.                                 5.  Hang, or place differently, 4 pictures.                                                                                              If there is any confusion, I can help.

 From your very good mother

 So far, three weeks later, disguising himself as Charlie in his awful athleisure pants, Santa has addressed the duck-on-table top, or 1/2 of item 4.  I am hopeful.


Very Good News.  I love this thought [from Louis Jenkins’ poem, “Freeze”] :

…“Everything dies, we understand. But the mind of the observer,                                     which cannot imagine not imagining,                                                                                         goes on.”…

I will keep on imagining so that I can keep on cheering up the people I meet, which is my long and still held purpose, no matter how lame I and my jokes [I prefer “small stories”] get.  If you are reading this, and even if you’re not one of the enlightened twelve, that includes you.  So with the longer life that having purpose supports,  I will post again. 

Here’s to a hopeful year of thinking and doing and laughing so hard you cant talk, of hating hate and figuring out some way you can make the world more livable, etc., etc., etc.  I am about to write to the Seattle Times Book Editor about my current favorite mystery series or sites.  [Well, she asked for suggestions.]  Happy New Year to all, from Seattle, where it is 47 degrees and raining.                





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For reasons unknown, my last blog post vanished. I mean poof! It was gone. “Error 403” or “Error 404”’was all I got. No trash, no delete, no “sysop [Charlie] forgot,” nothing. I figured, like taking away my curly hair, God smote me for the sin of pride because I had fun writing it. Charlie thinks the machines are paying me back for my mistreatment of them. I think it’s the Russians, and I told Charlie not to pay the ransom. So here is my resurrection re-write, sans final edit embellishments.

But first a note to my vanished post’s 8 commenters: you are my heroes. Okay, I failed to include the mysteries of William Kent Krueger. I like him a lot, and with his Cork O’Connor, WKK is to northern MN, as Paul Doiron is to ME, or as C.J. Box is to WY. Maybe most telling, WKK shared a writers’ group with two of my Metro State colleagues.

Now, finally, the vanished post is resurrected!                                                                                        x x x x x x x x x xxxx x x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x  x x x x x x xx x xx

BOOKISH INCIDENTS REPORT                                                                                    [This is a bookish post, in the spirit of economist Paul Krugman’s wonkish NYT “posts”.]   

Democracy is bruised, but unbroken, and now, the healing can continue.  Thank you for voting.                                                                                                                                                  Today’s haiku:  My new bit of twit-speak is LNU for Last Name Unremembered.  which is useful for aging book recommenders.  Charlie argued that ”forgotten” is more accurate, more Twitter-ish, and asked, “Was “unremembered” even a word?”  Well, Google Editor knows it is, and, dictionaries say that “unremembered” can mean “unrecorded” or not available to be known and so, without further quibbling, and, recognizing that the oldie brain is a wondrous thing, LNU the Twit bit shall remain.  

 ONTO THE BOOKISH PART:                                                                                            Friend Sara, who reads a lot of mysteries and sci-fi, and who knows what else, [and who knows that I don’t read sci-fi because it is NOW with some differences inserted, e.g. power, technology, climate, and a hypothesized THEN described ad infinitum, and I usually quarrel with the inserts or their effects], wanted to exchange current good reads with which to face whatever is next.  I said, “Sure,” to mysteries. 

Read Andy Borowitz’ “Profiles in Ignorance”, watch boats, and sigh.

  SARA’S LIST with my comments:

Sinister Graves, by Marcie Rendon is set in 1970’s Minnesota on the White Earth Reservation. New to me, sounds good, so I 1-click ordered the first of her Cash Blackbear trilogy, Murder on the Red River.  I am, after all, a child of Wahpeton, ND, the “head of the Red” River.                                                                                                                                      Craig Johnson (Hell and Back) new- and everything else he has written.  I liked a lot the six seasons of Longmire, based on Craig Johnson’s mysteries, but his Wyoming-set books, not so much.  C.J. Box, with his 4 generation heritage,  is my go-to guy for Wyomig, especially with ranger Joe Pickett and wife, Marybeth, town LIBRARIAN!  Sara does not like the Netflix? video option.                                      The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd, is already on my partly-read list, and so far, it’s a finisher.  Mary Wagner recommended it to me, and she was an excellent recommender, but a mystery with maps would have caught my eye for at least a first thought.                                                                                                                                 Desolation Canyon, by PJ Tracy, is the second of the author’s works set in LA, a departure from the Minneapolis-based mysteries she co-wrote with her mom, who died recently.  I often choose books  for a location and its culture, and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Joe Eid’s I.Q. are enough LA for me right now.                                  The Counterclockwise Heart, by Brian Farrey is fantasy.  I KNEW she’d try to slip one by me.  Too many other books I’d rather read more.                                                        Two Storm Wood, by Phillip Gray, treads the ground and some of the mysteries of post -WWI carnage.  For now, Charles Todd’s Inspector Ian Rutledge’s post-WW1 World is all I can stomach.                                                                                                      Shadows Reel, by C.J Box is fun, just to anticipate.  I’ve already 1-click pre-ordered it. I love this series for many reasons, but one big one is his even-handed treatment of environmental issues.  Only problem is that Lynne Cheney, past spoiler-Director of the NEH does, too. Noteworthy daughter, Liz, suggests she’s a good mother, though.

Ponder Maira Kalman’s “Women Holding Things”, love, love them, and be proud.

MY LIST of current mysteries is split:   ALREADY READ and WAITING:        ALREADY READ, waiting for next one–if there is a next one:      

Elsa Hart’s Li Du Trilogy, set in 18th Century, SW China.  Love the books, learned a lot, AND Li Du is a librarian.                                                                                                        Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk Trilogy, set in contemporary Australia.  Third volume due December, 2033.  Another good Australia read is Peter Temple’s Jack Irish mysteries, which are also a series on Acorn, which is inexpensive and home to other pertinent, beautifully filmed series. Paul Doiron’s Trooper Mike Bowditch mysteries, set all over interior and coastal Maine.                                                                                                    Elly Griffiths’ Archaeologist and Professor Ruth Galloway mysteries, set in Norfolk by the sea, in NE England.                                                                                                Val McDiarmid’s DS Karen Pirie mysteries, set in St. Andrews, Scotland.          Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy, set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.                         Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon, part of Israel’s Mossad’s very contemporary activities.        David Ignatius, my CIA and Middle Eastern go-to guy and a Washington Post columnist.


While Justice Sleeps, by Stacy Abrams. Likened by Scott Turow to John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief, which I liked, and Ms. Abrams will know the government’s ways of which she writes.

Saratoga Paycheck by Stephen Dobyns.  Herein,  Charlie Bradshaw  is retired, but not tired, and so am I.  Great series, set in upstate NY, as is the Clare Fergusson / Russ VanAlstyne series, by Julia Spencer-Fleming, which I also like. Stephen Dobyns is also a poet, which I like, because poets don’t waste words. 

My Darling Detective, by Howard Norman.  I loved Howard Norman’s earlier mystery, The Bird Artist, with its layers and setting, and this one also has layers and probing, and setting on the Canadian Maritime coast.     

Writ in Stone, by Cora Harrison.  Book 4 of The Burren Mysteries, set in 16thC West of Ireland, brings to mind the Sister Fidelma mysteries by Peter Tremayne, which I liked a lot and which give potential to my increasingly tonsured head. 

CODA                                                                                                                                                I can’t remember what I said after this listing in the vanished post, except to acknowledge that I had gotten carried away AGAIN, that I had more BOOKISH INCIDENTS to report, and that I had to get reading-ready for Poetry Club.  Hint: I love Wislawa Szymborsrka.   More to come. 

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The ding-dongs are at it again, banning books they don’t like and may never have read.  Stephen King brings it home with a great review of Celeste Ng’s new dystopian novel, “ Our Missing Hearts,” in which, among other  appallingnesses, library books are pulled from the shelves and turned into toilet paper. He says, “On another level, ‘Our Missing Hearts’ is a meditation on the sometimes accidental power of words. Why are Mr. Gardner’s library shelves so empty? Because students must not have access to books that ‘might expose them to dangerous ideas.’ This isn’t dystopian fiction but actual fact, as rancorous school curriculum meetings and protests across the United States have proved. The Florida Parental Rights Bill, signed by Governor DeSantis in March of this year, is basically a free pass to text censorship.”  Gasp!


Libraries are unbanning books!  Of special note is the Unbanned Books Program of the Brooklyn Public Library.  BPL is issuing an e-card to ANY TEENAGER who applies, and with that card any user has access to the 500,000 e-reader titles, free of charge.  New York Public Library is making books available through its SimplyE reader app in a campaign called Books for All. The app is downloadable without a library card.  Thank heavens for Ellen’s good work with technology and networking in NYC classrooms. And Seattle Public Library is encouraging everyone to read banned and challenged books in order to show support for reading, authors, and access.


Ode to beings that blossom in the Fall:  We are many, are we you?


 What is a book lover, who values freedom to choose and use, to do?             1.Run for your local library board, or guilt other good choices into doing so.  Andy Borowitz accepted an invitation to join his local Library Board in Hanover N. H.  As he explained, “I realized that libraries are now political because people want to keep certain books out of our children’s hands, so if I really want to participate in democracy and not just talk about it, then I had to say yes.” My niece, Susan, in suburban Boston would be great on the Library Board, as would Scott, who is already busy with the Historical Society, Brian, Steve after he moves, or Ann in St. George.    

 [An aside: With my Kindle 1-click ordering,  which Charlie threatens to dismantle, I just bought Andy Borowitz’s new book, “Profiles in Ignorance: How American Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber” which I will read as soon as I hurry through C.J. Box’s latest Cassie Derwall mystery, Treasure Chest, which is good, but not as much fun as the next best thing promises.]

2.”Intrude’’ everywhere, anytime, to highlight the infinite potential that free access to libraries makes possible.  Putting it less delicately, “butting-in” is one of my major superpowers.  Some examples: 

Example:   Millie’s excellent grandson, Magnus, is running for Freshman Class President, using as his platform, a Socrates’ quote: “Democracy is only as good as the education that surrounds it.”  I immediately emailed Millie to be sure that Magnus remembers to note  that “education” means “intelligent voters,” or people who ask  questions [Socratic method alert!] and search for answers [in libraries, etc.], before and after voting.  Surely, Socrates would have agreed if he had lived 200 years later, when the Alexandrian Library thrived.  No reply, yet, from Millie.

Example:  Charlie, lifelong friend Ben, a reader and lifelong party to my suggestions, his excellent daughter, Margaret, and I met just before she became a freshman at Montana State University in Bozeman.  I dived right in and asked her if she used libraries.  She said “Not really,” which I think is polite teenager-ese for “No.” I gasped, took a moment to recover, and suggested she might want to get to know the Bozeman Public Library, in case the Montana State U Library runs out of what she needs [as Marquette U’s Library did when I needed a Shakespeare play. So I went to the Milwaukee Public Library and checked out Troilus and Cressida, not Shakespeare’s best, — okay, it was the only one left on the shelf  — and finished the assignment on time.].  And  being totally with it,  I noted that the Bozeman PL has ebooks.  I casually.  mentioned I would email her some irresistible book suggestions She looked pleasantly unenthusiastic.  I liked her a lot and suggested:  Two of my favorite memoirs: Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl, because Margaret was working in a lab and loving it, and is a probable STEM major; Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies, because she is a swimmer; and two good mystery series set in or near Bozeman: Jamie Lee Harrison’s 4 murder mysteries, set in Blue Deer, MT, near Bozeman.  Edge of the Crazies is the first; and C.J. Box’s Cassie Derwall, PI mysteries: The Bitteroots  and Treasure Chest, both with her office set in Bozeman.  Follow-up at Thanksgiving, maybe.

UNBAN THE BOOKS!  FREE THE IDEAS!  Read a book.  Be all you can be.

Example:  At the Poetry Club meeting, I handed out “Unban the Books” bookmarks [Handmade,  thanks to Amy.] to a very modest reaction.  Reilly thought his bookmark said “Urban the Books” [He was once an urban researcher.], which was not okay as it excluded my rural roots.  So we compared who read the most-challenged book while we were in HS.  Well, nobody beats his [D.H. Lawrence’s] Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but I’ll argue that Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country was more dangerous.  So there.  And no one left a bookmark on the table, which I consider a good sign.

Anne, who is in the Poetry Club and convenes the Shakespeare Reading Group, works with Seattle PL to get copies of the chosen play, albeit in different editions, but hasn’t yet run into the banned book issue.  I offered to try to get Shakespeare banned, or at least challenged, at SPL so she and her group could do their civic duty, and read a banned or challenged book.  I lost her halfway through that idea. But the next day, she casually put her “Unban the Books” bookmark on the Ballard HS Librarian’s desk, not knowing that Susan, who convenes the Book Club, was both looking at Seattle PL’s list for Book Club choices and working with the Ballard HS Librarian on a  project to have Ballard HS “teenies” and Landmark “oldies” read  the same book and react to it. Good work, Anne.  I gave Susan my last, first run. Unban the Books bookmark.  Clearly, we are weaving an untangled web.  Any suggestions?  


Which is the Nordic Swan?  Only one is made of plastic bucket lids.

 On the way to the Lockspot’s cinnamon roll, I rolled on the smoothly black-topped bike trail to familiarize the bicycle riders with the growing number of happy rollers of an age out and about in Ballard and the world.  Okay, there was one little incident.  I mean, who could hear the little ding-ding of the bicycle horn?  Especially with street traffic to my right.  Charlie said I was in the middle of the two bike lanes and wiggling.  I explained it all.  He’s threatening AGAIN to get an air horn, mostly for  my mask violations.

So many civic duties to do, so many a “that’s illegal”  from Charlie.  What’s a civic duty activist mother to do?



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